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Toni Hurford

R. S. Thomas has a line in his poem ‘The Garden’ “It is a gesture against the wild”. I might say that of my work but also say it is with the wild too, sometimes just wild and also against human bullying. Often I’m just looking, overwhelmed. At my best not overrun with that, but mindful, noticing and putting together with it. Sometimes it is overrun, and even though I feel how important process is, sometimes it all feels beyond me – allowing that can be part of finding threads to follow. I wonder what an experience like this opportunity will be like, I could fall on my face, but hope to trust creative life and grow.

Specifically my writing has many themes but what stand out are mental health (and treatment) and gender. Themes of finding myself and my humanity in their midst and insisting on this in the face of misunderstanding (including my own). My poems are glimpses of understanding, glimpses of wholeness and hope of it, seeking this. A first step may be health but ultimately I hope they reflect common human interests. I think of them as lyrical, not just confessional. I began writing poetry in 2004 when completing my MA in Counselling. My first collection, A Staff of Asklepios, is forthcoming. Since 2018 I’ve blogged about 300 poems and some reviews and start to see a second collection, Dagian (‘becoming day’), in that. I’m learning about ways to get my work out. I’m in process with printing a self-published pamphlet (stalled by lock down). I’ve experimented a tiny bit with drawing and have had some results I like (surprisingly). I enjoy photography. I’m also learning keyboard/piano, which has been very healthy for me.

This is a time of transition in my life, career-wise as well as in terms of any gender or healing journey, I’m finding my way again. It has both stimulated me but personal issues this year have also hindered work at times and a rhythm of work. The structure of this opportunity may help as well as through its content. My best ideas seem to come from nowhere when living in a way that helps, not least to catch them. Whilst my work has often been about my experience maybe I also start to see ways, with my counselling and past academic interests, I can also engage with others.


August 2020 – two poems and an essay pending publication
May 2020 – commissioned to write article on Emily Dickinson for Disability Arts Online
April 2020 – provided writing workshop in Lapidus International online festival. Drafted a second pamphlet, Readings from a selection of recent poems.
March 2020 – lockdown stalled process to self-publish my first pamphlet, Survivors
January 2020 – film review, The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) published at Lapidus International blog
late 2019 – began to experiment with drawing as well as photos for my blog
2019 – poems published at The Writers’ Cafe (online issue on masks), in Lapidus International’s Journal (Spring) and here.


April 2018 – ongoing, personal blog (c300 poems)
2018 – ongoing, publication of poems and articles in The Beaumont Magazine
2016 – two sonnets published in anthology on sexuality and gender, Venn, Unstapled Press
2014 – ongoing, poems and essays published by Disability Arts Online, blogging there since May 2020
2012 – ongoing, public reading mostly through writing groups, also since lockdown on Zoom
2011 – ongoing, Survivors’ Poetry mentee (mentor Dr Simon Jenner). Poems published at their website and in Poetry Express newsletter (numbers 45, 54, 57 & 60, reviews also published (e.g. issue 46). My Collection A Staff of Asklepios, is now forthcoming.